| 1.1°C Dublin

Dunguib can book ticket to Festival

The wraps belatedly come off Philip Fenton's star performer Dunguib at Gowran Park this afternoon when the handsome Presenting gelding is fully expected to secure his Cheltenham Festival ticket for next month's Stan James Champion Hurdle.

A close third to Menorah and Get Me Out Of Here last March in novice company there, Brian O'Connell's constant partner subsequently failed to match strides with all-aged Grade One opposition at the Punchestown equivalent when only sixth behind Hurricane Fly.

Despite often running keenly and giving his hurdles scant respect, Dunguib remains a horse of real potential, whose unsatisfactory scope ruled him out of a much stiffer test at Leopardstown after Christmas -- won by Hurricane Fly from Solwhit.

This time Fenton's charge, which has been given ample time both to recover and gear up again for the fray, needs to regain the winning thread in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle with just last year's game victor Luska Lad and another prolific scorer Gimli's Rock to cope with.

The defections yesterday of Voler La Vedette and Blackstairmountain should make this a straightforward task for the top weight, particularly if the year-younger Luska Lad adopts his customary front-running tactic on his first start for new owner Barry Connell.

On an interesting card, the Red Mills Chase earlier on is bound to be staged on pretty testing ground and would seem rather more competitive, with last month's Thurles principals Follow The Plan and Roberto Goldback probably under greater threat from Scotsirish than Rubi Light.

Follow The Plan made an overdue, shock return to form under young Pat Mangan at the Tipperary venue in the similar Kinloch Brae Chase when getting up late to foil Roberto Goldback after the final fence had been dolled off and is 5lb worse in on this occasion.

That Grade Two penalty could swing the issue in favour of his victim now as Seamus Dunne's often-placed Bob Back gelding may not have been helped either by the last obstacle being taken out there -- and his trainer Jessica Harrington and rider Robbie Power have enjoyed much better luck in the interim.

The preceding Beginners Chase commemorating local young jockey Ronan Lawlor -- who was fatally injured on the gallops last year -- has attracted double the number of runners than in the twin Red Mills promotions and the prize could be destined for championship leaders Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, courtesy of flat-bred Tawaagg, which beat all except Rahan De Marcigny in a stronger heat at Leopardstown six weeks ago.

The Shantou At Burgage Stud Maiden Hurdle looks a veritable minefield, however, for punters and, indeed, Tote patrons chasing a variety of rollovers, with several ex-English and French recruits making their jumping debuts against obvious form choices Luddenmore and Knight Eagle.

Rigidity, which represents the Edward O'Grady-Andrew McNamara alliance that captured the spoils 12 months ago with favourite Capellanus, might not double up for them, as last October's Windsor maiden winner Launchpad has better credentials.

Irish Independent